Though it may still seem far off with the 90-degree weather outside, fall and winter are on the horizon. When the temperatures (finally) cool off, things will be heating up over at Film Forum in New York with their latest slate of releases.
“Gainsbourg: A Heroic Life” leads the pack, while the Sundance-acclaimed war doc “Hell and Back Again” and Frederick Wiseman’s latest “Désir” round out the highlights.
Full lineup below:
FILM FORUM Premieres
August 2011 – January 2012
August 31 – September 13
“Gainsbourg: A Heroic Life”
Written & Directed By Joann Sfar
France / USA 2010 122 Mins. In French with English Subtitles Music Box Films
Comic book artist Joann Sfar interprets the life of ’60s pop star Serge Gainsbourg (née Lucien Ginsburg to Russian-Jewish parents),1921–1991, beginning with his childhood years in Nazi-occupied Paris, through his early years as a painter and jazz musician (brushing shoulders with Boris Vian), to his life as a wildly popular singer-songwriter, notorious bon vivant, and lover of some of the world’s most glamorous women. Gainsbourg’s two-sided personality (narcissistic and self-loathing) and his over-the-top antics with Brigitte Bardot (Laetitia Casta), Jane Birkin (Lucy Gordon), and beatnik icon Juliette Gréco (Anna Mouglalis) share the screen with a giant puppet alter-ego: a scary, libidinous bad-boy who personifies all of Gainsbourg’s worst proclivities. Featuring many of the musician’s greatest hits, with Eric Elmosnino as Gainsbourg and, in a cameo, Claude Chabrol as his record producer. Never have so many Gauloises been smoked to such great effect.
September 14 – 27
“The Mill and the Cross”
Produced & Directed By Lech Majewski
Poland / Sweden 2010 91 mins. In English Kino Lorber
What would it be like to step inside a great work of art, have it come alive around you, and even observe the artist as he sketches the very reality you are experiencing? Lech Majewski brings to life Pieter Bruegel’s masterpiece The Way to Calvary, the story of the crucifixion, setting it in 16th century Flanders under brutal Spanish occupation. Rutger Hauer plays the artist, Michael York his patron, and Charlotte Rampling the Virgin Mary. As epic events unfold, bawdy country living continues unabated: couples entwine, musicians play wind instruments, soldiers torment their enemies mercilessly, and children scurry about. Using sophisticated computer technology, the filmmaker creates a brilliantly complex and fascinating multi-layered dreamscape that melds iconic moments in art, history, and religion with the quotidian lives of ordinary people.
September 28 – October 4
“You Don’t Like the Truth: 4 Days Inside Guantánamo”
Written & Directed By Luc Côté & Patricio Hénriquez
Canada 2010 99 mins. In English Films Transit
Canadian Omar Khadr was 15 years old, a child soldier, when he was sent by his militant father to work with the Taliban in Afghanistan, assembling mines in an Al Qaeda compound. In 2002, he was captured by U.S. forces during a raid in which he was severely wounded and an American soldier was killed by a hand grenade. Omar was sent to Guantánamo and given the choice of pleading guilty to this murder and accepting an 8-year sentence, or contesting the charge and facing the possibility of life imprisonment. “You Don’t Like the Truth” was culled from seven hours of surveillance material, taken of Omar’s questioning, recently declassified by the Canadians. It is the only interrogation footage from inside Gitmo that has ever been released. The legal, political, and psychological implications of this prisoner’s ordeal are manifold. The film forces us to take responsibility for the strange form of justice that is being meted out in the name of homeland security.
“Hell and Back Again”
Directed & Photographed By Danfung Dennis
USA / UK 2010 88 mins. In English and Pashtu with English Subtitles Docurama Films
Winner of two prizes at the 2011 Sundance Film Festival. Acclaimed photojournalist Danfung Dennis follows 25-year-old Marine Sgt. Nathan Harris on his most difficult mission: coming home after being seriously wounded in Afghanistan. Embedded with Harris’s unit during their assault on a Taliban stronghold, Dennis brilliantly toggles between the intense experience of war (stunningly photographed by the director himself) and the challenges of re-adjusting to civilian life in small town North Carolina. “Hell and Back Again” brings the war home in ways that make gun-toting soldiering look like a day at the beach compared to the physical and psychic scars that manifest upon returning home. “The images…are painterly and expressive, both exceptionally real in their photojournalistic quality and physically vivid as cinema.” — Robert Koehler, Variety
October 19 – November 1
“Paul Goodman Changed My Life”
Directed By Jonathan Lee Produced By Jonathan Lee & Kimberly Reed USA 2011 89 mins. Zeitgeist Films
Paul Goodman’s 1960 best-seller, Growing Up Absurd, became a cornerstone of countercultural thinking, alongside books like The Medium Is The Message, The Autobiography of Malcolm X, and The Feminine Mystique. Goodman (1911–1972) was a polymath: a poet, essayist, playwright, and psychotherapist. He was candid about his bisexuality while maintaining a marriage and raising two children. Jonathan Lee weaves together old and new footage of those who extol Goodman’s virtues, as well as his adamant detractors (often one and the same), including Grace Paley, Ned Rorem, Deborah Meier, William F. Buckley, Susan Sontag, and Judith Malina. An abrasive and contradictory figure, Goodman’s influence was nonetheless immense. Today, much of what passes as common knowledge in the fields of education, politics, psychology, urban planning, civil rights, and sexual politics was first posited by him nearly half a century ago.
November 2 – 15
“The Other F Word”
Written & Directed By Andrea Blaugrund Nevins
USA 2011 99 mins. Oscilloscope Laboratories
Punk rock dad: an oxymoron? “The Other F Word,” with charm and wit, explores the bizarre transformation of punk rockers (featuring Pennywise’s Jim Lindberg, whose anthem is “F— Authority”) into soccer dads. The L.A. punk scene’s leading men — among them Flea (Red Hot Chili Peppers), Ron Reyes (Black Flag), Mark Hoppus (Blink 182), Tim McIlrath (Rise Against), and Fat Mike (NOFX) — open up about their troubled childhoods and how, today, they balance profane rage with being conscientious parents. “Raucous, eye-opening…and unexpectedly wise. Watching foul-mouthed, colorfully inked musicians attempt to fit themselves into Ward Cleaver’s smoking jacket provides for some consistently hilarious situational comedy… Resonant with anyone (punk or not) who’s stumbled head-first into family life.” — Andrew Barker, Variety
November 16 – 29
Written & Directed By Céline Sciamma
France 2011 82 Mins. In French with English Subtitles Rocket Releasing
A French family with two daughters, 10-year-old Laure and 6-year-old Jeanne, moves to a new neighborhood during the summer holidays. With her Jean Seberg haircut and tomboy ways, Laure is immediately mistaken for a boy by the local kids and passes herself off as Michael. Filmmaker Céline Sciamma brings a light and charming touch to this drama of childhood gender confusion. Zoe Heran as Laure/Michael and Malonn Levanna as Jeanne are nothing less than brilliant. “Heran gets it just right. Not only is she/he piercingly photogenic, but she affects the self-conscious swagger of a boy with striking authenticity. Levana is another natural, oozing wit and wisdom beyond her six years.” — Mike Goodridge, Screen Daily. This is a relationship movie: relationships between children, and the even more complicated one between one’s heart and body.
November 30 – December 13
Written & Directed By Cyril Tuschi
Germany 2010 111 mins. In Russian, German & English with English Subtitles Kino Lorber Films
Mikhail Khodorkovsky was once the richest man in Russia. Today, he’s one of the world’s most famous political prisoners. A story of Shakespearean proportions, The New York Times has reported on Khodorkovsky in both its news and op-ed pages. Joe Nocera (June 4, 2011) writes: “Over the past six months, I’ve written three columns about Mikhail Khodorkovsky, the former Russian oligarch who has been in prison since 2003, charged, tried, convicted — and recently reconvicted — on transparently bogus tax and embezzlement charges… His real crime, after all, was challenging Vladimir Putin, the Russian strongman. More importantly, Khodorkovsky’s fate stands as a powerful illustration of Russia’s biggest problem: the contempt the country’s corrupt rulers have for the rule of law.” Fascinating interviews with Khodorkovsky (sometimes sitting in a glass box in the courtroom), members of his family, and others portray a country transformed from its moribund Communist past to one in which power-hungry politicians are abetted by a corrupt, drunken and cynical younger generation. Stark black and white animated sequences help tell an amazing back-story that plays like a political thriller.
December 14 – 27
Produced & Directed By Charles Evans Jr. USA 2011 102 mins.
In 1994, scientist Victor DeNoble becomes the first whistle-blower to reveal the tobacco industry’s efforts to manufacture “a maximally addictive” product. Charles Evans Jr. tells the riveting story of DeNoble’s journey from research scientist working for Philip Morris (where employees signed secrecy agreements) to star informant — before Congressional committees, the FDA and Al Gore’s Tobacco Settlement Committee — and peripatetic anti-smoking advocate extraordinaire. Evans marshals classic footage: the CEOs of the seven leading tobacco companies who testify under oath that they do not believe that nicotine is addictive; Rep. Thomas J. Bliley, Jr. (R-VA) likening the government’s treatment of the tobacco industry to McCarthyism; the $10 billion lawsuit filed by Philip Morris against ABC. Today, the story continues to unfold: the FDA is requiring that cigarette packages include graphic labels of rotting teeth and blackened lungs by fall 2012. The tobacco companies are threatening legal action again.
December 28 – January 3
“El Sicario, Room 164”
Directed By Gianfranco Rosi Original Story By Charles Bowden
USA / France 2010 84 mins. In Spanish with English Subtitles Icarus Films
An extraordinary documentary, essentially a one-man show, based on the Harper’s magazine article — “The Sicario: A Juárez Hit Man Speaks” — by Charles Bowden. “Gianfranco Rosi’s remarkable EL SICARIO, ROOM 164 is a concerted effort to reveal the significance of a nonentity, a hooded anonymous ex-sicario or hit man (with a $250,000 contract on his head) for the Mexican drug cartels interviewed in an eerily drab motel room near the border… The sicario’s unadorned mixture of boastfulness, self-flagellation, and willingness to underline Mexican and U.S. bureaucrats’ complicity with the bloodthirsty agenda of the ‘narcos’ (i.e., drug traffickers) possesses a raw power that needs no embellishment… (It’s an) emotional roller-coaster ride that the sicario takes the audience on — from gruesome reenactments of torture to a weepy conversion experience.” — Richard Porton, Cineaste
Opening December 30 for an ongoing engagement:
Written & Directed by Asghar Farhadi
Iran 2011 122 mins. In Farsi with English subtitles Sony Pictures Classics
Winner – Golden Bear / Best Actor / Best Actress, 2011 Berlin Film Festival. “A gripping moral and social drama set in present-day Iran, Asghar Farhadi’s follow-up to the fine ABOUT ELLY lifts the director to the front ranks of contemporary world directors, and should be compulsive viewing for anyone wondering what has happened to Iranian cinema. It is compelling viewing for just about everybody, for that matter… Showing a control of investigative pacing that recalls classic Hitchcock and a feel for ethical nuance that is all his own, Farhadi has hit upon a story that is not only about men and women, children and parents, justice and religion in today’s Iran, but that raises complex and globally relevant questions of responsibility, of the subjectivity and contingency of ‘telling the truth,’ and of how thin the line can be between inflexibility and pride – especially of the male variety – and selfishness and tyranny.” — Lee Marshall, Screen Daily
Opening January 18:
Directed by Frederick Wiseman
France 2011 134 mins. In English and French with English subtitles Zipporah Films
Inside Paris’s Crazy Horse cabaret – the most famous nude dance show in the world. Acclaimed documentary filmmaker Frederick Wiseman explores one of the most mythic and colorful places dedicated to women, the Crazy Horse – a legendary Parisian cabaret club, founded in 1951 by Alain Bernardin. Over the years it has become the Parisian nightlife ‘must’ for visitors, ranking alongside the Eiffel Tower and the Louvre. Wiseman’s impeccable eye finds the Crazy Horse a uniquely French showcase, with an emphasis on elegance, perfectionism and a grueling schedule (2 shows a night and 3 on Saturdays, 7 days a week). The film shows us the rehearsals for and the unveiling of the brand new show – Désir – created by the renowned French choreographer Philippe Decouffle.
Premieres programmed by Karen Cooper and Mike Maggiore